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Title: An exploratory study of the sharing of process improvement knowledge
Author: Needham, Michael K.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 9580
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigated those factors that influence the internal sharing of process improvement knowledge. The pressure for an organisation to adapt internal operations to external environmental changes is becoming increasingly important as organizations no longer compete on processes but on their ability to continually improve processes. It was found that in general the knowledge and process improvement literature lacks understanding of the behavioural aspects of process improvement knowledge. As such this researches main motivation was to bring a behavioural view to our understanding by incorporating established insights from outside the field of operations management. To do so, a proposed conceptual framework was developed from that literature prior to collection of case data. The findings of this exploratory study are based on qualitative data from four case companies. Whereby case evidence was gathered from interviews, visits to operational locations, passive and active observation of employees involved in process improvement activities, and supporting documentary evidence. From the case analysis it was found that the behavioural aspects of skills, experience, friendships, opportunism, formal and informal relationships, trust and bounded rationality were found to be relevant across the cases in varying degrees of significance. In particular process improvement knowledge was found to be behavioural in nature with its relevance weaving across the three dimensions of the conceptual framework (human, organisational and location). In addition to this the research extends the applicability of the concept of absorptive capacity to internal process improvement efforts and extends our understanding of formal control systems by highlighting that even in the presence of stable conditions they can be compromised by individual human behaviour. At the organisational level this research found an important distinction between local and central commitment and control of process improvement efforts. Similarly the location of employees and their interaction with local physical assets were also found to mediate process improvement knowledge. Overall the validity of the proposed conceptual model was proved as a method for identifying the barriers and enablers to the internal sharing of process improvement knowledge. This subsequently led to the creation of a number of propositions that can be brought forward into future studies. These propositions highlight that the sharing of process improvement knowledge is highly reliant on an individual's willingness to socialise valuable knowledge. As such the importance of informal relationships as a conduit to the sharing of the tacit process improvement knowledge came to the fore. This thesis set out to explore the sharing of process improvement knowledge and as such met its aim, but it does however have its limitations. Process improvement knowledge is a dynamic concept as it is constantly evolving as employees learn and the environment changes. As such a longitudinal study could offer valuable insight into the dynamism of process knowledge. In addition to this, the findings of the complex interplay of individual and organisational learning within the organisational dimension of the conceptual model warrants further exploration. Given that this research finds support for organisational learning it stands to logic that future research could build on this by incorporating a dynamic capabilities view to process improvement knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available